I originally got a second passport — my grass green Nigerian booklet that I hear is now invalid — to be my identity badge on really crazy trips, like to Iran and Cuba. I did go to Cuba but ended up using my American passport, anyway. Even before I got it, I knew about the problems of traveling as a Nigerian. I was already used to the suspicious double glances at my name on my American passport by African — African! — customs agents. I was familiar with the half-jokes by new Ugandan and Kenyan friends about whether I was cooking up any e-mail schemes. But I’ve got pride in my ancestral homeland — which is why it hurts to see the way internet fraud has swallowed both the talented youth and the reputation of a country that is filled with brilliant minds with no place to stretch, and that is constantly hustling and heaving as it sways like a drunkard, one step away from falling into madness.
Vice has just released a very short documentary on Sakawa, the mix of mysticism and internet scamming that has given rise to a popular subculture mainly made up of clever young Ghanian men. As usual, Vice is more interested in the shock appeal of Sakawa — those crazy Africans painting their faces and dancing to drums! — than exploring why a generation of young Africans are turning to fraud as a livelihood in the face of political corruption and an overwhelming lack of employment opportunities. What’s more interesting, as Louis Chude-Sokeias writes in Fanzine, is the insanely high levels of creativity, technological savvy, organization, research, and planning involved in these scams that, if redirected, could make the Nigerian megacity of Lagos suddenly thriving within a day. What’s more interesting is “this younger generation [that] rolls with a swagger disdainful of global pity and deeply suspicious of ‘big man’ politics.” I can link you to the fascinating article, but first I need you to send me your bank info please. Too soon?